Archive for October, 2012

How do we transform our neighborhood?

Posted: October 30, 2012 by efenster in Information, Resources

So your church decides it wants to transform its community, to be a part of God’s redemptive work, bringing the Kingdom into its fullness right in your church’s backyard.  What do you do?  Where do you start?  Obviously you engage your congregation in prayer and fasting as a first step.  So then what?

I attended a workshop led by Rusty Eshleman, who is on the staff of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church’s Fort McKinley congregation.  Four years ago, Fort McKinley UMC, located in Dayton, Ohio, was down to about 40 people, few of whom lived in the church’s neighborhood.  The church voted to allow the larger Ginghamsburg UMC to take over the church.  Since then the Fort McKinley UMC is averaging over 400 people in worship each week, reaching people who primarily live in the church’s neighborhood.  So how does an exiting church impact and transform it neighborhood?  Here are some step Rusty shared…

Asset-based Community Development (ABCD) 

  1. Identify a 15-block area and ask yourself what it would mean to be a good neighbor.
  2. Listen for needs.
  3. Identify assets.  Look for people—leaders, talents, empty building or blocks, townships, elected officials, businesses, neighborhood associations, property managers, schools, etc.
  4. Discover what people care about.  Become a student of your target area.  Involve neighbors in discovering the solutions to the community’s challenges.
  5. Connect and mobilize people.  For example, send out teams to collect information about new residents their needs and assets.
  6. Lead by getting out of the way.  Empower those in the neighborhood to do it. 

 According to John Perkins, who wrote Restoring At-Risk Communities, remember that it takes time.  He says at least 15 years.  So, perhaps the first question your church needs to ask itself is are we really committed long term?  I hope its answer is “Yes!”

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

P.S.  Here are some helpful resources:  

  • Jobs for Life is an 18-week Christian-based training that helps those chronically unemployed prepare for the job market, partnering with area businesses.  It matches students with 16-month Champions (mentors). 
  • Americorp Interns can provide one-year help.
  • The Asset-based Community Development Institute has some helpful printed resources.
  • The United Methodist Church for All People, in Columbus, OH, can also provide a church with significant help.
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Change the World!

Posted: October 25, 2012 by efenster in Ideas

“To whom has your church been sent?  If it can’t answer this question, it’s not in the game,” according to Michael Frost who was a featured speaker at this year’s Change the World Conference sponsored by Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio. 

He went on to say that the primary purpose in life is that all of us declare that “Our God reigns!”  (Isaiah 52:7)  But he cautioned that we don’t bring in the reign of God but simply help our friends and neighbors to see it.  We’re like the trailer shown in a movie theater giving a preview of a coming blockbuster.  We aren’t the blockbuster, but simply help alert people to it.  So to whom are you and your church sent to bring this good news? 

In another presentation at the conference, which was held Oct. 18-19, 2012, Michael Slaughter, senior pastor of Ginghamsburg UMC, challenged us to think small rather than big.  In fact, he said that a regional church, like Ginghamsburg, is only able to offer psuedo-community because many can’t become a part of real community–such as participating in the church’s Life Groups–since they live so far away.  They attend the church’s worship services but that’s about it.  He encourages churches to consider a pedestrian model, targeting the 15-block area around its building.  (That would obviously translate differently for churches in rural locations.)

Ginghamsburg UMC, under Rev. Slaughter’s leadership, is practicing this concept.  In 2008, the church took over a dying United Methodist Church in Dayton.  The 40 remaining members primarily drove in from outside Fort McKinley UMC’s neighborhood.  Ginghamsburg brought new leadership with healthy DNA and is transforming the church and the 15-block area around it.  The church now has three weekly worship services reaching over 400 people, its building 25 homes nearby, and has helped its neighbors discover their assets and empowered them to use them in ministry, investing them in their neighborhood.  As a result, the area’s crime has moved away.  So, the Fort McKinley Church has started a new congregation called The Point UMC, in a location where the crime seemed to go and now they’re groing a new church there that is transforming its 15-block area.

Instead of being the largest church in the area, Slaughter challenges churches to focus on churching their area.  So, to whom has your church been sent?  Don’t get left out of the game!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

How big is your church?

Posted: October 9, 2012 by efenster in Ideas, Stories

I was sitting last month at my son’s high school tennis match watching him play.  To my right was one of my son’s teammates and three of his buddies.  He was waiting his turn to play, and while he waited he and his friends spent the entire match talking about stabbings and shootings, as though these topics were completely normal.  At one point, one boy, who was wearing a shirt that said in capital letters “HIGH ON F_K,” said that if he doesn’t get a job when he leaves high school that he’ll commit a crime so that he can be taken care of in prison.  I told him I hoped that he got a job!

The next day I went to a meeting of a group of us trying to start a new United Methodist Church in my neighborhood.  I kept thinking about those four boys and their conversation.  And then it hit me, “So just how big is this church you’re hoping to start?  Is it big enough for these four boys and all the others they represent?”  God continues to disturb me with that question.  “How big is your church?”

Later that week my wife ran into a parent of one of the tennis players on the opposing team.   Although my son is in a public high school, his team happened to be playing a Christian parochial school in town.  All this parent said about the match was how terrible it was that the school didn’t do anything about the boy wearing the shirt with the offensive message.  Is that how we Christians and our churches typically react.  We’re more concerned about not being offended than the person behind the offense?  

No wonder a new Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study shows that the “Nones” are on the rise, that is the number of Americans who are not affiliating with any religious group is increasing.  The study shows that my generation, the Boomers, on down to the young Millenials, all have more “nones” than ever.  In fact, a third of the generation of those four high school boys at the tennis match don’t affiliate with any religious group.  Is our church big enough to reach them?  Obviously they won’t be care about us until they know how much we care for them.  Do we really care?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

How are you observing Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month, Sept. 15- Oct. 15th, which is being observed in the U.S.?   How about visiting the Indiana Conference’s demographic provider MissionInsite and studying…

  • how many Hispanic-Latinos live in your church’s community,
  • whether that number is projected to grow,
  • and where the Hispanic-Latino population lives within your community.

Manytimes this group is undercounted, so how about checking with your local schools to see what percentage Hispanic-Latino the student body is and what they perceive are unique needs and strengths of this special group.   You may also want to have a conversation with Rev. Sergio Reyes, pastor of Getsemani UMC in Fort Wayne, who serves on our conference Church Development staff to help with Hispanic church planting.

According to MissionInsite, currently about 6% of the Indiana’s population is Hispanic-Latino (again this figure may be low).  Although it actually is projecting this percentage to decrease slightly over the next five years, there are still around 400,000 persons many of whom are unchurched.  Perhaps God is counting on your church to reach them!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Assoc. Director of Church Development